On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Middlesex County, Docket No. FN-12-233-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 27, 2008
Before Judges Lisa and Reisner.
Defendant, R.G., appeals from a finding of neglect in the this Title 9 case.*fn1 She argues that the decision of the trial court should be reversed because the judge applied the incorrect legal standard in finding neglect and because there was insufficient evidence in the record to support the finding of neglect. We reject these arguments and affirm.
In October 2005, defendant learned she was four months pregnant. She sought prenatal care and participated in three prenatal care visits. On January 17, 2006, she tested positive for cocaine metabolite and acetaminophen. On January 23, 2006, defendant suffered a seizure and prematurely gave birth by emergency cesarean section to T.H., her first and only child.
Born two months prematurely, T.H. weighed only about two pounds. She was admitted to the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit because of her prematurity, and also because of respiratory distress syndrome, possible maternal cocaine abuse and thrombocytopenia.*fn2 In T.H.'s admission summary, the neonatologist noted defendant's positive cocaine test and wrote that defendant "has a history of cocaine use until 4-5 yrs ago (gave conflicting dates to L&D staff). Denies use, however test positive for sml [sic] cocaine metabolites and acetaminophine. Mother denied taking Tyl 3 or cocaine to me."
Drug screenings performed on T.H. yielded negative results. Nevertheless, T.H. remained hospitalized for two months after birth. Upon her release, she was classified as medically fragile and admitted to Saint Clare's Home for Children.
On the day after delivery, defendant reported to a hospital social worker that she last used marijuana six years ago, she never used any drugs other than marijuana, and she did not know how the positive cocaine test happened. Defendant reported that she served twenty-one months in State prison for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in a school zone and she received substance abuse treatment while incarcerated. Defendant reported that following her release from prison in 2002, she failed to complete drug treatment at the Open Door treatment program because she failed a drug test. The Division of Youth and Family Services (Division or DYFS) attempted to contact Open Door, but the facility lacked records of defendant's attendance there.
The hospital made a referral to the Division regarding defendant's positive cocaine test. The referral noted that T.H. was not experiencing any withdrawal symptoms. When interviewed by a Division investigator, defendant denied any drug use during her pregnancy.
Defendant was living with the parents of a deceased former boyfriend (not T.H.'s father, who was incarcerated). Because of the premature delivery, defendant told the Division investigator that she was not immediately prepared to care for the child, but would take steps to obtain suitable housing and return to her work as a waitress as soon as possible.
Based on its investigation, DYFS found that allegations of neglect, consisting of a substantial risk of physical injury, were substantiated. Defendant agreed to the Division's case plan, which required defendant to comply with services and "refrain from drug/substance use/abuse." Defendant also agreed to be subject to the Division's monitoring.
On March 10, 2006, defendant tested positive for marijuana, thus constituting a violation of the case plan. The Division developed another case plan, to which defendant agreed, which included a provision that ...